friends on Facebook

Friend Me

This post has been written to add to the Five Minute Friday link-up, where the prompt for the day is, “friend”.

*****

friends on Facebook

 

Friend me.”

This is a phrase that would have made a lot less sense when I was a little girl.

Social media was not a thing; in fact, I still remember the first computers (that weren’t the size of a room, and that “regular” people could own in their homes). Yes, I may be dating myself, but that’s OK.

But it’s a common request these days, connecting us to those we know on Facebook and other social media.

I am fairly careful who I friend. It’s good to be safe online and in real life and use godly caution.

But let’s not live in so much fear that we shut real people out.

I know that online relationships and acquaintances can never take the place of spending time with flesh and blood people, but I do find it engaging and a wonderful way to keep up with those I do know and love but can’t always be with due to miles or time constraints.

There are several wonderful ladies I’m getting to know only online. I have never met them in person, but if I walked into a room and they were there, I would give them hugs.

I believe that real friendships can be made, renewed or rekindled, or just maintained partly by interacting online. I even wrote a whole blog post on that premise.

But let’s not forget to get off of our technology and out into the real world.

Let’s make time to get together with those we love and those we wish to know better.

Don’t just pass by those people with whom you go to church, those neighbors you wish you knew better, or the colleagues you see at work, without touching them somehow.

Be the person who is not afraid to smile at a stranger, stop to help a passerby, or even offer a word of encouragement or friendship to those we meet.

Let’s cherish the ones we love and not take these moments for granted.

Because the hearts of everyone around us are saying, “friend me“.

And my heart needs to be a friend, too.

*****

 

 

 

snow boots on sidewalk with wet snow

How I Turned a Miserable Shoveling Experience into Worship

snow boots on sidewalk with wet snow

Perhaps this should more accurately be called, “How We Shoveled Heavy, Wet, Sloppy, Back-Breaking Snow, and Still Managed to Be Thankful”, or something like, “How to Be Thankful in All Circumstances, Even When Your Back Aches and You’re Soaked to the Skin.”

I’m not even sure I can claim that I was entirely thankful, or that I felt like worshiping out there, but I certainly gave it a good try.

It all started when after a couple of weeks of almost spring-like weather and all of our snow had melted, we got the weather prediction that a big snowstorm was moving in. Used to such teasing in New England, we bucked up and faced it like men (and a strong woman).

As the day drew nearer, we kept checking in on our weather apps to check the prediction updates.

The good news: almost a definite snow day (which means no school or sometimes work, up here in the north).

The bad news: around 8-14 inches of snow, with the possibility of up to 2 feet in some areas.

The night before we stayed up a little later than normal, knowing that there would be no school or work to go to, and awoke after sleeping in to nothing much happening outside.

But then it started, slowly at first, but increasing as the day went on.

And then the really bad news: the weather report stated that it would probably change over to rain or sleet at some point in the afternoon. So we knew we could not wait for every last flake to fall before we went out and braved the storm to begin our snow removal.

As nice as it is to not be too cold outside, this is not always beneficial in a snowstorm. In fact, I’d argue that it’s one of the worst possible outcomes (topped only by dangerously cold weather or icy conditions, or a full-blown blizzard).

By the time we all got out there, about six inches of snow had fallen, but the falling precipitation was already transformed into all rain. which means not only were we going to get wet, but the snow would be unbearably heavy. And as much as I like a good workout, there is no good way to shovel heavy, wet snow without straining one’s back.

Yet, braving the elements, we put in our time and hard work, and gradually removed the offending snow.

my men shoveling heavy, wet snow

Two of my men hard at work, shoveling heavy, wet snow. (The other is out there somewhere, too.)

Shortly after I had been working, I began to realize that my otherwise warm down coat and thick jeans were beginning to soak through.

Now if you’ve ever been soaked through to the skin in your clothes, you know this is at best a miserable feeling. But try that in close-to-freezing temps and you’ve got yourself a pretty good reason to complain.

As much as it’s OK to vent a little, before long I realized my attitude had degraded into a miserable, complaining mess, not unlike the scene around me. I was feeling like there was nothing for which to be thankful.

And then I realized I had to do something about it.

So I pushed myself to start naming things I am thankful for.

I started with the fact that I am healthy and strong enough to do this work.

Next, I listed people I know and love (I named a bunch of them), and thanked God for them. Then I went on to give thanks for my cars and home, and other random blessings. Eventually with every scoop of slushy snow, I named something else for which I could express gratitude. I think I even named every delicious ice-cream flavor I could think of with each slushy scoop, before I decided to change over to prayer.

I prayed for several people I know, and it made the work bearable.

shoveled steps with wet snow

I won’t lie to you and tell you that I felt wonderful or had any divine revelations during the course of the afternoon, because I didn’t.

I still felt crummy and wet, with rain water now dripping down my head and back, and parts of my legs feeling thoroughly chilled. The only other time I remember being this wet was when I was at a high school camp out with my Inter-School Christian Fellowship group. It was March, and we had decided to have a water fight which soaked our heavy coats and all the way through to our underwear. This was memorably uncomfortable, as the March evenings in Ontario are still relatively cold.

But back to today.

I was able to change my attitude with an act of my will, by choosing to be thankful.

 

Here are 3 things to reflect on when you are tempted to complain:

  1. Start being grateful for anything and everything you can think of.
  2. Recognize that you’ve probably been through more difficult circumstances and survived, and that there are others around you with more concerning problems right now.
  3. Turn your thoughts from inward belly-gazing, to a prayer for those around you.

 

I am tired and sore, and I’m sure my back will ache some tomorrow, but at least I recognize how much I really have for which to be grateful.

I know of so many around me going through some really hard times. There are those who are grieving the loss of a loved one and many who are struggling financially. There are acquaintances struggling with their self-image and friends who are out of work. We have family members who are suffering with physical ailments that can only be healed by a touch from God. So many I know are hurting.

We’ve gone through some hard times ourselves, but through it all, God has been faithful.

my soaking wet, smiling face

My soaking wet, but smiling face.

I’m thankful today that even thought life is far from perfect, it’s pretty good right now. We are strong and healthy and together as a family.

We have a nice, warm home and cars that run well, clothes on our backs, and good food to eat.

We are surrounded by family and friends who love and support us, a church in which we can both use our gifts to minister to others and receive blessings ourselves, and jobs that are mostly pleasant and provide for our financial needs.

With our wet clothes either hanging (and dripping) downstairs or drying in a warm dryer, at least we’re warm and cozy again. There’s homemade soup to heat up for supper, and Caramel Turtle brownie mix that beckons me to bake soon.

coats and clothes hanging to dry in basement

Coats and clothes hanging to drip dry in our basement.

As I reflect on all of my blessings, I realize that I really have a lot.

With God’s help, I can count it all joy, both in difficult times and in those wearisome or mundane times in the middle.

I can chose to be thankful in every situation.

I am learning to make all of my life, even those miserable experiences, a place of worship.

*****

It just dawned on me, shortly after posting this as I made our supper, that the worship song we sang on Sunday is totally appropriate. I’ve had the words of the chorus going through my head all week,

 

Your praise will ever be on my lips…

 

I guess maybe my heart was listening, even though I was unaware.

 

*****

In what difficult or challenging circumstances do you currently find yourself in? What helps you to change a negative attitude into one of thanksgiving or worship? For what can you be grateful today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

girl jumping off rocks

Abandon

girl jumping off rocks

 

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday.

*****

The word for today’s writing is “abandon”, and my first thoughts are of a negative nature; pictures I’ve seen of abandoned animals, or worse yet, stories of neglected and unloved children come to mind.

When I read the definitions, abandon includes the following:

  • to cease to support or look after
  • leave without intending to return
  • give up completely (a practice or a course of action)
  • allow oneself to indulge,
  • complete lack of inhibition or restraint (noun)

When I think about my life, there are many things that should definitely be abandoned. Some of them may feel like new fears or feelings, but many more are things I’ve carried with me for my whole life.

I desire to give up fears and doubts, negative thinking and self-talk, complaining, pride and striving in my own strength, holding onto hurts, making poor decisions based on feelings, and other emotions, thought patterns and actions that do not bring life.

As a Christian, my decision to follow Christ includes the abandonment of many things; but not for my harm or lack of enjoyment. God asks me to give up those things that would hurt me or someone else, or hinder me from personal growth. He asks me to prioritize following him and doing those things that would give him glory.

The verse that came up in my daily devotional was Colossians 4:2,

 

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

 

When we devote ourselves to those things that truly matter and follow the loving plan of the One who created us, it will bring life and peace. We will not long for the things we’ve chosen to abandon, because they don’t bring real fulfillment.

One of the worship songs I’m practicing for Sunday morning is called Fully Devoted.

The chorus speaks of being fully devoted to and following after the One who gave his life for me. The song reminds me to step out in faith without fear, and share the wonderful gift of God’s love with the world.

 

“Fully devoted we follow after

The one who gave it all

Christ alone be praised

No matter what it takes for the glory of your name

Christ alone be praised

We are stepping out in faith so the world will know your name

Christ along be praised”

 

You may listen to the whole song here:

 

I wish to abandon the things that only bring temporary satisfaction and don’t promote life and growth. I desire to embrace all that God has for me, and to share his good gifts with those around me.

Only when I abandon the things I do not need will I have room in my heart and life for the things that are truly good.

And that’s a sacrifice worth making.

*****

 

 

 

 

blue winter sky with clouds and tree branches

What I Learned this Winter – December 2016 to February 2017

blue winter sky with clouds and tree branches

It’s been some time since I’ve shared a “What I’ve Learned” post. In fact, looking back caused me to recall that even the last post I shared ended up being a combination of two months, in 11 Things I Learned in October & November 2016.

I love this habit, but I guess life got away from me a bit. It started with the wonderful but busy Christmas season, then life forged full-force into a busy January, and lagged through much of February. It feels a bit like a “fail”, but then I realized that maybe Emily P. Freeman (who is graciously hosting this link-up), was wise in switching from monthly to quarterly (or seasonal, if you will), posts.

So rather than worry about not posting for the past three months, I will rather take this as an indicator that posting what we learned every three months is a better practice for me, at least for this time in my life.

I’m privileged to join today in Emily’s seasonal “What We Learned” link-up, along with many other wonderful bloggers and writers.

So here are some things I’ve learned in the past three months, in no particular order. I hope you enjoy my list, find it inspiring, or perhaps learn something new yourself.

*****

What I Learned this Winter (December 2016-February 2017):

 

1.   Living near a well-known Christmas lights display is cool but has it’s drawbacks.

We  have a well-known and much-loved seasonal light display right down the street. LaSalette Shrine boasts what is probably one of the most popular light displays in New England. Many people come to visit each year; it is a tradition for families from far and wide.

Well, the downside is that during peak visiting times (such as Friday and Saturday evenings), there is often a line of cars stretching several miles down the street, blocking not only our street, but all of the “side” streets, as well. We should know. Both my husband and I have been stuck trying to get home at just the wrong time, and have sat in these lines waiting to simply get to our house.

It is worth seeing and we usually make a visit at some point during each Christmas season. It’s a place of beauty and peace, and one that is based on the true story of Christmas.

I guess that’s something worth waiting for.

 

2. Apparently, when people sing in a group, their heart-rates synchronize!

According to this online academic publisher, “Choir singing is known to promote wellbeing.” But even more interesting and amazing is their statement that, “Unison singing of regular song structures makes the hearts of the singers accelerate and decelerate simultaneously.”

If you love to sing in a group, there are at least two more reasons to keep on singing!

 

3.  Star Shower lights are simple and dramatic!

I really enjoy outdoor Christmas lights. I love how they not only celebrate my favorite holiday, but brighten the otherwise dark and barren winter season.

We have tried to decorate our home and yard with at least some lights almost every Christmas season. Some of my favorite displays involved my poor husband climbing a really tall ladder and stringing up icicle lights from our eves at the peak of our roof. As pretty as it looked, it was a lot of scary work out in the cold.

We’ve settled for less extravagant displays on the ground most years, but regardless, putting up and taking down the lights has never been our favorite part of our Christmas celebration.

Well, low and behold, this year I decided to take advantage of a coupon and a good deal and order some laser lights online. I sifted through all of the brands and gadgets and settled on one of the more basic models (and the first one I had seen and knew that I liked in real life). I purchased the Star Shower Motion Laser Lights Star Projector, and was excited when my package arrived.

What had me even more excited, though, was how simple it was to learn and set up, and what a dramatic presentation of starlight on our house and high tree branches! It is one of the prettiest light displays we’ve had, yet so simple. I’m sold!

 

laser lights on house in snow

Star Shower

4. Working Saturdays isn’t so bad most of the time.

I really like my latest job, and am so thankful for this position. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and is proving to be a good fit for me, as I had hoped. I also really like my co-workers and find the team spirit supportive and encouraging.

This is the first job I’ve had in years for which working Saturdays is the norm. For most of the year, I work part of each Saturday, unlike most of my past jobs.

This schedule has been working out fine, except when we started to plan one of our annual Christmas family get-togethers this past December.  My husband and I talked about and started planning our usual Saturday morning family brunch for several days before it dawned on me that I had to work that day!

Fortunately, we hadn’t yet told everyone the date, so we were able to find a suitable time for everyone to come and it all worked out just fine. Sometimes it’s hard to start thinking outside the box.

 

5. I now (think that I) know the difference between “roast” and “bake”.

I can’t remember how this came up, but something prompted me to research the difference between “roast” and ” bake”.

The dictionary definitions are very similar (see “roast” and “bake”), but there seem to be some differences as well.

It seems that most people agree that both roasting and baking are cooking methods employing dry heat. The most popular consensus is that the difference has more to do with the structure of the food. While roasting is usually used to define cooking (either over an open fire or in an oven) a food that already has a solid structure, baking most often refers to cooking foods in an oven to change their structure. We know that we bake cakes, cookies, and casseroles, but we can roast a chicken or vegetables. This article does a pretty decent job of describing the difference.

I will admit, though, upon further reading, the issue is still up for debate. You can check out some different viewpoints on this page, and decide for yourself.

 

 

6. There is an ancient art form which makes something beautiful out of broken pottery.

A little while ago, my husband alerted me to an interesting an inspiring Japanese art form that he had heard or read about. It immediately grabbed my attention and has stuck in my mind.

A paragraph from this article explains it best:

Kintsugi (“golden joinery”) or kintsukuroi (“golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. This repair method celebrates the artifact’s unique history by emphasizing the fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing the artifact with new life.Kintsugi art dates back to the late 15th century, making it more than 500 years old. It is related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for finding beauty in the flawed or imperfect. The repair method was also born from the Japanese feeling of mottainai, which expresses regret when something is wasted.

I was so inspired by this craft that I wrote a blog post about it, because I think it is a perfect illustration for our lives. You can read more about my thoughts in my post entitled, Make Something Beautiful Of Your Brokenness. I hope this idea touches and stays with you as well.

 

7. I am learning how to use a bullet journal, and loving it!

Have you ever heard of a bullet journal? It seems to be an exceptionally popular habit right now, but I think this may be more than just a fad for me.

The idea of a bullet journal was invented by a digital product designer named Ryder Carroll. There’s a lot of good information to learn about what it is and how to do it on his website. You may check it out by watching the following video.

It’s basically a simple method for your planner that uses short, bullet points in the journal or notebook of your choice, and can be designed to suit your personality, learning/working method, needs and desires. Although the inventor’s method remains more basic, even spartan, in it’s approach, others have adapted his idea to incorporate their more artsy designs and creative ideas in their bullet journals.

After going through the information on the original Bullet Journal website, I quickly found and watched several videos from Carrie Crista (you can watch one of her videos about how to start out, here),  and Boho Berry (enjoy her journal flip-through, here). Each of these young women will give you tips and ideas based on their more artistic approach to bullet journalling.

While I love the ideas of beautiful and colorful pages, and will incorporate some of my own creativity in my bullet journal, I plan to attempt to keep it simple (as suggested in this wonderful, comprehensive post by Kendra of the Lazy Genius Collective), so that this system will remain enjoyable and really work for me. 🙂

 

8. Decorative Washi tape is my favorite new craft discovery.

Have you tried washi tape yet? In starting my bullet journal (see point #7 above), I noticed that some people (OK, probably mostly women), use washi tape to decorate their journals. It can also be used as a pretty way to attach printed sheets into a journal and to cover up mistakes (by either taping the decorative tape over the mistake, taping two pages together, or taping a new sheet over a mistake page). I browsed the many options at Amazon and read the reviews and chose this set to try first. Not only is washi tape beautiful and colorful, but it is so easy to work with! It is super fun and forgiving. What more could a crafty lady want???

 

what I learned

 

what I learned winter

9. I forgot how NOT FUN it is to experience vertigo!

Several years ago I came down with a pretty nasty case of vertigo. (I’m not sure if one can “come down with” vertigo, but that’s kind of what happened.) Without going into too much detail, let me just say that it was a really hard experience.

At first I didn’t know what it was or what to do about it.  I had some medical insurance issues when I finally did try to get to a doctor, ended up one night in the ER desperately trying to get some help, and FINALLY…..I got to my wonderful ENT doctor who diagnosed me correctly and promptly sent me to the best physical therapist on the planet.

I’m sure I was just a tad prejudiced right at that moment, but regardless, she was kind and knowledgeable, and best of all, she specialized in the type of issues I was dealing with (vertigo and balance issues). After some weeks of physical therapy (by this point the vertigo that had not been dealt with was creating other problems), and treatment for my type of vertigo, she also taught me what I needed to know to be able to treat myself at home.

I’ve heard that many people (I think it’s mostly women), who have vertigo do not get the help they need. They may not have professionals who know about the treatments or simply don’t go to the right place for help.

I am SO THANKFUL that I got to exactly the right person to give me the help I needed!

I’ve had some mild cases of vertigo since that time and my home treatments completely did the trick. Last week, however, I awoke one morning with a more-than-mild case of it, and after doing too rounds of treatments, I’m still not back to normal. I’m thankful to be much better, but it just reminded me of how debilitating this condition can be.

I certainly cannot diagnose vertigo for someone else, but if you have this experience please go and get some help! I personally was diagnosed with BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo), which occurs when little fragments of calcium carbonate crystals loosen and get into the ear canals, where they are not supposed to be. The sensation is worsened by movement of the head, especially lying down, sitting up, and turning the head one way or the other. If you’d like to read more information about this type of vertigo, the Vestibular Disorders Association has an excellent article that may be of help.

 

10. Instant pots were designed by Canadians. 🙂

I’ve heard a bit about instant pots and recently looked into this phenomenon a little more. This handy and speedy appliance seems to be all the rage right now, with recipes and ideas for instant pots all over the web. When I read that the instant pot was designed by Canadians, it made this Canadian girl smile. It’s nice for one like me who is happily living in the United States with my American husband and two sons, when I see so many cool things that are “made in Canada”. If they are even half of what they’re cracked up to be, I should probably be moving this appliance to the top of my “things to buy” list!

 

11. We are much more productive doing ONE THING.

I am currently reading one of those books that seems like it will be a definite game-changer. In The ONE Thing, author Gary Keller (with Jay Papasan) talks about the fallacy of our multi-tasking society. He teaches us how to be sucessful in all areas of life, by simply focusing on the one most important thing.

For many of us (especially busy women and mothers who wear so many different hats all at once), this skill could actually change our lives. I’m looking forward to finishing the book and applying this truth to my own life.

 

12. Being busy doesn’t mean I necessarily learned any less, but it does mean I may not stop to remember.

Boy, it’s sure been a busy couple (or more) months! I do not care for that pace that leaves me feeling like most areas of my life are either out of control or totally neglected, and attempt to not live that way for long. I know that I’ve still learned a lot, but feel like I’ve barely taken the chance to stop and breathe and ponder nearly as much as I’d prefer. It looks like things may be evening out a little, but I think that recording what I’ve learned in seasons will be a good fit for me right now.

I don’t want to ever stop learning, but sometimes we have to slow down to realize or process the things that are going on around us.

I hope and pray that I will take every opportunity to cherish my life and the wonderful things that are happening all around me. God give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart full of gratitude.

*****

What have you learned this winter? Have you stopped to think about it or just to enjoy the beauty? I would love to hear from you in the comments!